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bikini bottom sunburnWe’ve all been there: you applied sunscreen–maybe even re-applied, but got burned anyway. Once it’s happened, there’s no going back; but there ARE things you can do to help alleviate the pain and speed your skin’s recovery.

May is actually skin cancer awareness month–which is ideal since in many of the United States it marks the opening of local pools, summer vacation, and generally more time spent outdoors. I encourage you to practice prevention by wearing sunscreen, reapplying, wearing a hat, and staying indoors or in the shade during the time when the sun’s rays are strongest. But in the event you’ve sustained a burn despite this, here’s what to do:

1.) Take ibuprofen. Everyone knows sunburns hurt–but for some reason, not everyone thinks about taking pain medicine for it! Not only does it help with the sensations of pain, but ibuprofen also actually has anti-inflammatory effects–and that’s exactly what sunburn is-inflammation. Take it according to label directions.

2.) Use Aloe Vera Gel. Ooooh so original. I know everyone has heard this before. But what haven’t you heard?


  • AVOID ALOE VERA GELS WITH ALCOHOL AS AN INGREDIENT. Surprisingly–most aloe vera gels found in drugstores DO have alcohol as an ingredient. Alcohol can be incredibly drying for the skin and is therefor incredibly counterproductive. So when choosing aloe LOOK AT THE INGREDIENTS. Generally speaking, the gels that are clear are less likely to have alcohol added. Green or blue goo–are much more likely. CVS makes a good one, plus you can find several in natural foods stores OR you can grow your own aloe plant at home! When needed, simply break apart a leaf and squeeze or scrape out the jelly-like sap. Apply directly to skin. It’s so effective, even hospitals use it on 2nd and 3rd degree burn victims.
  • FOR PARTICULARLY BAD BURNS, LOOK FOR ONE SPIKED WITH LIDOCAINE.
    Lidocaine is a topical pain-killer. Unfortunately, something’s gotta give: if it contains lidocaine, it will also contain alcohol. I reserve using this for a particularly bad sunburn where the pain is really intense. Try using the formula with lidocaine the first couple of days to take the edge off–then try switching to the pure aloe vera formula after to surge the skin with moisture. Be SURE to follow directions on the label- lidocaine is a powerful ingredient, and you CAN use too much. Even though you want the pain gone yesterday there have even been reported cases of DEATH caused by misuse of topical products like icy hot. Just like other over-the-counter drugs, though, it is safe when used according to directions.

3.)Become a foodie. Try bathing in a luke-warm bath infused with cucumber slices and chamomile tea. Both of which have moisturizing, soothing properties on the skin.

4.) Be sure to drink plenty of water. Your skin and body can easily become dehydrated from a day soaking up too much sun. Be sure to replenish it.

5.)Up your antioxidants and protein.

  • internally: try taking vitamin C which boosts your immune system (and therefor your body’s ability to heal) and taking fish oil, which helps lubricate the skin from the inside out–if it also happens to have DHA it also has anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
  • externally: Try Darphin Aromatic Seaweed Bath and Shower Gel, $70 for 17 oz. Algae or seaweed proteins help moisten and strengthen damaged skin. Also, absolutely fabulous for repairing stressed skin is Natura Bisse‘s C+C Vitamin collection. The C+C Vitamin Complex, $190 for 1 oz, has the highest concentration of active ingredients to quench skin on your face, neck, and chest with powerful antioxidant vitamin C, to repair free radical damage plus collagen to firm and strengthen skin.  The C+C Vitamin Body Cream, $95 for 8.8 oz, provides these same things plus added moisture: great for arms, legs, back or tummy.

6.) Avoid exfoliating your skin. (For now.)I’m always touting the benefits of exfoliating your skin–but let the clarisonic, scrubs, and peels have a few weeks off. Your skin is already trying to re-generate and turn over, and doesn’t need assistance from these types of products. Not to mention using something that feels like sandpaper on already burned skin is less than comfortable. Also discontinue any products with AHA’s in them—cleansers, serums, and other products containing these will really STING!

7.) Cover up. Wear light-weight long-sleeved tissue T’s or other lightweight clothing that covers if you must be in the sun with your sunburn. (Not to mention, of course- sunscreen!)